The authors report rhabdomyolysis following the ingestion of weight-loss herbal medicine in an otherwise healthy 54-year-old woman. Three hours after ingestion of the herbal medicine, the patient suffered chest pain that continued for 2 hours and resolved gradually. Laboratory investigation showed the presence of rhabdomyolysis with peak serum creatine kinase (CK) of 1028 IU/L, which gradually decreased and normalized after the herbal medicine was discontinued. The pharmacological effects of the active ingredients of the herbal medicine, ma huang (ephedrine), guarana (active alkaloid caffeine), chitosan, Gymnena sylvestre, Garcinia cambogia (50% hydroxycitric acid), and chromium, are discussed, and similar case reports are reviewed. The elevation of CK in this case is of concern, as it may denote that muscle breakdown may be one of the mechanisms of weight loss in these herbal remedies. Further studies are needed to investigate their effects on muscle bulk or CK. Physicians should be aware of the potential side effects of many herbal medicines. It may be advisable to measure serum CK enzyme for patients who admit using weight-loss herbs.
- Ma huang
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